Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging on so many levels, and honestly the hyperactivity and distraction is a walk in the park compared to the rest of the package. ADHD rarely comes alone; it’s accompanied by depression, anxiety, rage, sensory processing issues, auditory processing issues, and a slew of other “disorders” and “syndromes.” And as if our kids weren’t challenging enough, there are the additional challenges of battling our own insecurities and mommy guilt, as well as battling what other people are saying and what we think they are saying.
So homeschooling a child with ADHD is, as you might assume, rather chaotic. It doesn’t look anything like I had imagined. And though we are in a much better place today then we were a couple of years ago, I remember the days when I doubted that I could do this. There were days when I felt like I did more counseling than actual homeschooling. There were days when one child would fly into a biting, scratching, head-banging rage, another child would be screaming inconsolably, and my toddler would be smearing poo all over the house. And I wasn’t sure I’d survive the day. But you know what? My kids learned, even when I didn’t think it was possible.
We learned in short spurts (10 to 15 minutes per subject).
We learned creatively and actively.
We learned when we had a chance, in the good moments.
And because of the environment of having that one-on-one attention and plenty of time to burn that excess energy, my kids have done well academically. Our ADHD kids are smart.
And while medication was not the long term answer for our kids, I’m thankful for the gift ADHD meds gave to my family during that time. It helped me to see who my children really were in the midst of that overwhelming fog. It gave me the chance to get my head above water and rethink our lifestyle and habits and routines. It wasn’t perfect: some days the meds worked, some days they seemed to be too much, other days they weren’t nearly enough. But the meds worked enough to help clear the haze and allow me to see that there could be some dietary links.
About a year and half ago, we began an elimination diet and I journaled religiously—everything we ate and every behavior. After awhile, some patterns emerged. It took several months of watching those patterns and eliminating different foods. But eventually, both my older kids went off meds and my youngest (never on meds) also had dramatic improvements in his temperament and sensory issues. My daughter’s journey took a little longer and involved a few more supplements, but eventually she was able to reach a healthy baseline. Are they cured? No, the dopamine and seratonin issues show up in the DNA; it will always be there. But we are able to manage their challenges best right now with diet and supplements.
My kids are still a very active, loud, dramatic, funny, personality-plus crew of hooligans. They still have BIG EMOTIONS that we have to work through. But in spite of all of the challenges, we’ve had the chance to see the treasure, too. You see, ADHD rarely comes alone; it comes with creativity, innovation, humor, imagination, and a wild sense of adventure. We are never short of laughs and unbelievable antics. My life is full and rich (and loud) and never dull, not for a split-second.
Is homeschooling the right option for your ADHD child? Only you know that. But I definitely don’t regret having homeschooled ours and the opportunities they’ve had to excel in learning in spite of their challenges, to love learning because we can keep it short and active and customized, to have meaningful friendships that allow them to be loud and quirky and every bit who they are. Can you homeschool a child with these obstacles? Sure you can. Just like you can wake up each day and parent. There are good days and bad days in homeschooling, just like there are good days and bad days in parenting. There are days when it is the most amazing experience ever, and there are days when I wonder what on earth I’m thinking. But there’s not a single day when I wouldn’t do absolutely all I could for my kid.
So if I could have a moment with myself of two or three years ago, if I could tell you what I’ve learned over the last few years, I’d say it’s okay to feel inadequate and helpless and imperfect. It’s okay to not know the solutions right now. It’s okay that you aren’t the “fun mom” or the “creative mom” or even the “patient mom.” You are still the perfect mom for this job, because God chose you for this child. And He doesn’t make mistakes. ADHD doesn’t come alone; and you are a key component in the journey.
If you are new to this journey and need a friend, I would love to hear from you. I also highly recommend the book Superparenting for ADD.
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